Tuesday, September 11, 2018

BIG Violas and Lionel Tertis




Lionel Tertis

image from www.english-heritage.org.uk courtesy of Margaret and Robert Lyons


By Andy Fein, Luthier, Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong

Lionel Tertis was a giant of the viola world. He brought the viola and viola playing into the 20th century as a viola soloist and commissioner of new viola solo compositions. A true giant of the viola world. But he was not a giant of a man. More like an average sized guy. But he loved the big, deep, bass-like sound that big violas produce. Throughout his career, he played a 17'' Carlo Antonio Testore viola from 1735, as well as a 17 3/4'' Gasparo da Salo viola. He met his match in Paris in 1920 when he discovered a huge Montagnana viola that was made in 1717. The Montagnana viola was 17 1/8" ( 434mm). To play a viola that large comfortably and without injury from long term use, I'd insist that the player be well over 6'! Preferably, over 6'4". Alas, Tertis was 5'6'', not anywhere near that tall. What to do, what to do?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Before Cremona- Where Did the Violin Come From?


By Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong

Where did the violin family come from?


"1647 Nicola Amati Violin"

Used by permission of the author and publisher of BC, Before Cremona, All rights reserved




It's possible, although not probable, that Andrea Amati woke up one morning and said (in Italian, of course!) "Hey! I've got a great idea for a four stringed musical instrument that doesn't have any frets, is tuned in fifths, has f-holes, violin type corners, pegs that project out to the sides,  and that you play with a stick that has rosined horse hair on it." More likely, the instruments we know as the violin, viola, and cello slowly evolved from previous instruments and were an amalgamation of ideas for instruments that had preceded them by centuries.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Craft Beer and the Craft of Composing- Joey Crane, Composer and Beer Guy


By Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins 
and Ivana Truong

In the constantly expanding world of craft beer, it's hard to know what to try, what to avoid, and what is not to your taste. To help guide you, wine has sommeliers, beer has cicerones. A cicerone is a "beer person"  that actually knows what they're talking about. For me (Andy, Ivana's too young to drink), that person is Joey Crane. I first met him at The Ale Jail on St. Clair Ave. in St. Paul. I was perusing the many craft beers and Joey introduced himself as the beer person there. I went away from that first encounter with several beers to try. Now, several years later, I can proclaim without any hint of beer snobbery that "I really like Belgian Ales with secondary in bottle fermentation." And for most cicerones, that's about as far as I'd get to know the person.
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Composer Joey Crane

Monday, July 30, 2018

Amati Cellos

By Andy Fein, Luthier at Fein Violins and
Ivana Truong
Fig. 1. Andrea Amati (Italian, ca. 1505รข€“1578). Violoncello, "The King" (detail), mid-16th century. National Music Museum, Vermillion, South Dakota, Witten-Rawlins Collection, 1984 (NMM 3351)
'The King' made by Andrea Amati, the oldest surviving cello

image from The Met
In an upcoming blog post, we'll be reviewing a book titled BC Before Cremona which traces the lineages of violin family instruments leading up to the early Cremonese makers in the mid 1500s. But somewhere around the 1520s to 1530s- POOF- violins, violas, and cellos started to be made. Who was the first? There are many names tossed around, but Andrea Amati was certainly an early maker of violin family instruments.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Stradivarius vs. Guarnerius Cellos

By Andy Fein, Luthier, Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong


Recently, cellist Pablo Ferrandez had the incredible opportunity to compare two great cellos- the 'Aylesford' Stradivarius cello of 1696 and a Joseph filius Andrea Guarnerius cello made in 1694. As you can tell, this made Pablo Ferrandez very happy. Very, very happy!